The Insurance Council of New Zealand has called for better fire control for land with flammable plant growth, including those under the management of the Department of Conservation (DOC).
This follows the Lake Ōhau blaze that destroyed around 50 buildings and ravaged over 5,000 hectares of land. According to a report by RNZ, local farmers said the fire worsened when it burned through thick vegetation on DOC land.
In response to the fire, the ICNZ said the insurance industry wants preventative measures in place to avoid fires getting out of control, which can lead to otherwise preventable claims.
ICNZ CEO Tim Grafton said that while the Lake Ōhau fire is still being investigated, landscapes must be managed safely to help control fires.
“It’s really important that, as far as possible, those who own or manage land, especially in rural areas, ensure that any flammable vegetation is kept down to a minimal level to avoid the spread of a catastrophic fire,” he told RNZ.
A retired rural firefighter, Murray Dudfield, agreed with the farmers and insurers, saying that the Lake Ōhau fire could have been prevented if the DOC controlled the vegetation, and that he had tried for years to get the department to do so.
However, the DOC responded that ‘fire proofing’ of public conservation land is something that cannot be achieved. According to the department, the land is home to many animal species that rely on the vegetation for food or habitat, so it has to be left in its natural state.